It would be fair to say that the FIFA U17 World Cup has been an overwhelming suceess. The tournament has seen record crowds and tremendously exciting football. Now we are down to the business end of the tournament. While Indian fans are still soaking in the excitement of hosting such an event, the teams involved firmly have their eyes on the trophy. The semi-finals are upon us. The second semi-final at DY PATIL STADIUM in Navi Mumbai will see Spain take on Mali.
Road to the Semi Final-
Pre-tournament favorites Spain finished second in group D to progress to the round of 16. After a narrow defeat to Brazil in the first match, Spain comprehensively beat Niger and North Korea. Further, Spain overcame France 2-1 through a last-minute winner by Abdel Ruiz. After that, they had a much more comfortable outing against Iran as they defeated them 3-1 to make their way into the last 4.
On the other hand, Mali’s journey has been quite similar too. Like their semi-final opponents, Mali lost their opening game against Paraguay. After that, the runners-up from 2015 cruised through their remaining two games in the group against Turkey and New Zealand. In the knockout rounds, Mali thrashed Iraq 5-1 and then beat Ghana 2-1 to make it to the semi-finals.
Spain and Mali Key Players
Abel Ruiz was one of the most hyped up players coming into the tournament. It will only be fair to say that he has lived up to the expectations. The La Masia academy product has lit up the tournament with scintillating performances and is also the joint second top scorer with 5 goals. It goes without saying that he will be Spain’s brightest hope. Another player who has widely impressed has been Winger, Ferran Torres. He has been the team’s biggest creative outlet.
Meanwhile, for Mali, their charge has been led by the impressive trip of Lassana Ndiyaye, Hadji Drame and Djemoussa Traore. They have shared 11 goals in between them and have tormented opponents. If Spain wants to play the showpiece encounter on Sunday, they will have to contain these three.
What to Expect
Except for goals and goals. Its no secret about the attacking culture that Spanish Football breeds. This Spain team is no different. They emphasize on Tiki Taka football and playing possession football.
On the other hand, Mali isn’t going to sit back and play as underdogs. They have been the tournaments highest scoring side. While in a slightly different and quicker way to the Spanish, Mali is gonna be as attacking as their opponents are known to be.
While due to how similar both team’s campaigns have been and more or less equally matched teams, its tough to call who will emerge as the winners. Thus it promises to be a game that will be a treat to the watchers. One can be sure of an end to end game which could go either way.
Head to Head
Spain defeated Mali 1-0 in their only meeting in 1997
What time does the match begin?
The encounter is scheduled to begin at 8:00PM local time on Wednesday evening.